There was a time David Ayer was a serious director, but somewhere along the way, he gave up any pretense of doing a serious film. And that’s a shame. Harsh Times and Street Kings put Ayer’s name on the map. End of Watch made him a go-to director for grit and realism. Ayer followed End of Watch with the much-maligned Sabotage (which is not as bad as the critics would have you believe) and the gritty World War II movie Fury (Starring a mohawked Brad Pitt). Unfortunately, none of the grit made it into the sub-par Suicide Squad. Following on the heels of Suicide Squad, Netflix has brought Ayer’s latest offering, Bright, to the small screen.
Do you remember the movie Alien Nation? Maybe you remember the short lived television series. The really condensed backstory of both the movie and the series is this- aliens, called Newcomers, crashed their spaceship in America and become assimilated into society at varying degrees. One of the aliens, Sam Francisco (Mandy Patinkin, The Princess Bride) is the first alien to be in the Los Angeles Police Department. Sam faces ridicule, taunts, and racism. His partner, Matthew Sykes (James Caan, The Godfather), doesn’t want to be partnered with a Newcomer.
Why are we asking you if you have seen Alien Nation and giving you an edited version of the story? Because it’s the exact same theme as Bright. Bright, like Alien Nation, uses mythical creatures as stand-ins for minorities and the issues they face in the United States. Bright removes the aliens and adds orcs and elves. Daryl Ward (Will Smith) is partnered with the LAPD’s first orc police officer, Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton, It Comes at Night). Ward doesn’t want to be partnered with an orc and the other officers in the police department don’t want an orc on the force.
Ayer attempts to bring some grit and realism to Bright. It may be difficult to see through the magic, the orcs, and the elves. It’s there, you just have to look for it. It begins when Ward and Jakoby save an elf, Tikka, and a magic wand meant to be used to summon the Dark Lord. Ward, Jakoby, and Tikka race through the city, End of Watch style, trying to get to federal agents of the Magic Department. The entire time they’re hunted by gang members, police, and one pissed off elf named Leilah (Noomi Rapace, Prometheus) who needs the wand to summon the Dark Lord.
Like a lot of fantasy books (The Hobbit, anything by Terry Brooks or Robert Jordan), Bright is packed with silly and almost unpronounceable names you forget as soon as you hear them. There’s a convoluted prophecy of the Dark Lord coming back to earth and the wands it takes to bring him back. No fantasy story would be complete without magic spells and made up languages that require subtitles. Bright has it all in spades. It’s enough to turn anyone off who’s not into the sword and sorcery genre.
Is Bright the worst movie of 2017? Some would have you believe it is the worst movie of 2017. These people forgot Daddy’s Home 2, The Dark Tower, Monster Trucks, Sleepless, and remakes of both Flatliners and Going in Style came out in 2017. There are more movies that came out in 2017 far more deserving of the title Worst Movie of 2017 than Bright.
Bright isn’t the best movie of 2017 either. Like Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour, Bad Boys, and a million other police movies, Bright is basically a buddy cop movie. Because it’s a buddy cop movie in the tradition of buddy cop movies it’s a foregone conclusion Ward and Jakoby will become friends and save the city by the end of the movie. Bright doesn’t break the mold when it comes to the buddy cop genre. In fact, it follows every cliche to be found in the genre.
In today’s day and age of comic book movies with underdeveloped characters and stories that are more special effects than substance, it’s not fair to heap unwarranted criticism on one movie that follows the same formula. Those movies rake in billions and no one bats an eye. Fanboys and critics heap praises on movies like Captain America: Winter Solider with one plot hole after, but find offense in Bright. Bright follows the same formula as those movies- underdeveloped characters, explosions and property destruction, more special effects than exposition, and crazy fight scenes.
Bright, like comic book movies, is a fun turn your brain off two-hour movie. At the very least, it’s ten times better than Suicide Squad.